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Psychoanalysis On and Off the Couch

Dec 3, 2023

"The fact that music is so important for our constitution - that music is almost how we move in the world, that our own bodies are played through by musical forms, that the way we relate to our own way of being in the world is sort of mediated by music - this is powerful stuff. But it's not always very fitting to us. We hear a lot of music in our lives, we don't always choose what we hear. We don’t choose our analyst’s musicality, we don’t first check what kind of musicality an analyst has. We are bombarded by music; music can be imposed upon us, it can make us feel within ourselves in a way that doesn't feel right to us. There is a lot of complexity here as we think about this matter of music being so central to us. But we can find the music that works for us, but we don’t create the music. It belongs to the realm of collective cultural life. There is a lot of struggle in music, and in the analytic setting there is a lot of struggle - because for many patients a lot of the work rests on whether there can be any shared sensory experience or not.”



Episode Description: We begin with recognizing that the process of human musicalization begins in utero and forms the basis of much of psycho-somatic-social life. Peter, Michael and Adam’s written collaboration, Here I'm Alive - The Spirit of Music in Psychoanalysis is intended to be a musical book about psychoanalysis - a representation of how music binds us to the individual and cultural domains of life. We discuss rhythmizing consciousness, atavistic vs enhancing music, and the blues as a companion soundtrack for loss and tribulation. We take up the relationship between Freud's dream book and his joke book, how present analytic melodies contain aspects of the past, and how dissociation requires a remusicalization of the psychoanalytic situation. We close with Adam reading a paragraph which includes "The capacity of the sexual drive to propel the body back into musical movement and transmute the seizure of trauma into conducted energy to ground the current."


Our Guests:


Peter Goldberg, Ph.D., is a Personal and Supervising Analyst at the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California, Chair of Faculty at the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis, and on the faculty of the Wright Institute in Berkeley. He has presented widely and written on a range of clinical and theoretical topics, including the evolution of clinical theory in psychoanalysis, sensory experience in analysis, the concept of the analytic frame, the theory and treatment of dissociative states, non-representational states; and the impact of social trauma on individual psychology. He is in private practice in Albany, CA.


Michael Levin, Psy.D. is a Training Analyst and Faculty Member at the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis. He has taught and presented on topics including the work of Laplanche, phenomenology, and psychoanalysis, and the place of psychoanalysis in cultural and intellectual history. He is in private practice in San Francisco.


Adam Blum, Psy.D. is an Adjunct Faculty Member at the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis. He has written and presented on psychoanalysis and the music of Björk, Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Stephen Sondheim, Aretha Franklin, and Michael Jackson. He is in private practice in San Francisco.



Recommended Readings and Videos:


Nicholas Spice, “Winnicott and Music” (2001), in The Elusive Child, ed. Lesley Caldwell (London: Karnac, 2002). 


Peter Sloterdijk, “Where Are We When We Hear Music?” (2014), in The Aesthetic Imperative: Writings on Art (London: Polity, 2018).


Francis Grier, “Musicality in the Consulting Room,” International Journal of Psychoanalysis 100:827–51. 


Sondheim Teaches "My Friends" from Sweeney Todd (video) . 


Byung-Chul Han, The Scent of Time: A Philosophical Essay on the Art of Lingering (London: Wiley, 2017).


Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Phenomenology of Perception (London: Routledge, 1962)


The Late Late Show with James Corden, “Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke” (video).


Harmut Rosa, Resonance (Cambridge: Polity, 2019). 


Meshell Ndegeocello, The Omnichord Real Book (2023) (album), Blue Note Records.